Long Range Steel Target Shooting Tips and Instructions
Training for a Rifle Silhouette Match

Timing and Time

I have seen many people pick up their rifle at the "Listo" command but not even start sighting until they hear "Fuego". This is a competition based on time and once time is lost, you can never get it back. The best example I can give was one of my own experiences. I was in a sudden death shootoff and I had made all the adjustments for the scope before I went to the firing line, or so I thought. I had forgotten to adjust the focus of the scope for the Turkey distance. I was slow in recognizing the problem and was panning around for the steel Turkey targets. By the time I got it figured out, dropped the rifle down, focused the scope and brought the rifle back on target, I was about 10-15 seconds into the 30 second firing period and the other shooter had just hit the target. As I got steady on the target a gust of wind came up and it was all but over. As I was running out of time I made a futile last second shot in the general direction of the target.

 There have been plenty of times when the wind is gusting off and on where this has paid off well. If I know it is going to calm down I will try to wait it out. If it is calm when the "Fuego" command is given and I know the wind can gust at any moment, I am trying to get all of my shots off while it is calm. I am still trying to make a good clean shot but I am wasting no time getting the rifle down and ready to fire. I have a lot less error while rushing between shots than I do in a 5 to 10 mph gust of wind. 

There are a number of things from equipment to communication with the spotter which can cause for lost time during the firing sequence of a match. If you are prompt about being ready you can have some spare time to resolve those types of problems. It can also be nice to have time left over to review your first 5 shots with the spotter. When given the "Listo" command I pick up the rifle, slide the magazine into place, close the bolt and get ready. I am usually ready to fire when the "Fuego" command is given. You do not need to be in panic-speed and drop your rifle, but it is as simple as get set and get ready to fire.

The Spotter

When you are in a match firing at the animals it is important to listen and understand what your spotter is telling you. This is a sport where a light breeze can cause a miss shooting at a Turkey silhouette target. There can be times where you adjust to a light crosswind from the right and it shifts to the exact opposite direction while you are firing. The error you first accounted for is now twice the error in the opposite direction. Occasionally you will find your sight settings are a little off in the middle of a match and you can't shoot a few practice shots to get it sorted out. You need to adjust for it on the fly. In the beginning as an amature sooter, all of this is extremely difficult because of the uncertainty of the hold. I still have times when I am shooting that I do not adjust for the error that appeared in a shot because I was not certain on how accurate my hold and or firing was. I might have had three low shots in a row, but if I am not confident in my technich when I fired the shot, I am not certain I need to make an adjustment or not.

 If you have been hitting the targets fine and the conditions have not changed, do not adjust your rifle due to the results of one shot. There are any number of reasons to have one wayward shot and one shot does not create a pattern. The accuracy of your rifle down range is in a circular pattern of bullet hitting possibilities. No rifle will hit in exactly the same place every time. If you are slightly up on a target when you fire and the bullet trajectory happens to follow the upper end of the circle of error in your rifle, it can result in a narrow miss high of the target. Fortunately there are other times when you are outside the edge of the target but that same random circular error results in a hit on an edge.

The Scope Adjustments

There are two ways to adjust to the wind conditions while firing in a match. One is to adjust the position you are aiming on the animal. If you are hitting toward the butt of the Ram because of a breeze, adjust your aim toward the head to re-center your hits. The other is to adjust your scope toward the head direction to correct the crosshairs relative to the error you are seeing. If you wish to adjust your crosshairs it is important to have a scope that adjusts reliably. If you are not confident in the ability of your scope to adjust, it is better to adjust your aim to correct the error. Personally I always adjust my scope to adjust for any error or wind conditions in a match. I want to have the same sight picture every time I fire. The point when I am perfectly on target is etched into my memory. My mind has a hard time deciding if I am in a correct position when I am trying to hold in an unfamiliar place. That element of uncertainty can bring me unfavorable results. 

Documenting Your Shots

My wife and I use a cork board (Buffalo Arms Silhouette Spotting Board) with push pins to spot each shot. This makes it easier to see how the shots are landing which allows you to reflect on if any adjustments that may be required. If you are spotting shots one by one, it might not sink in that you have just missed a shot high after hitting the first two high and need to adjust down to center your hits. If you decide that you are up to the challenge of Smallbore Rifle Silhouette, I recommend using something that allows you to document all of your shots. There are some that are covered with a clear film so you can spot it with a wax pencil. I can say we are happy with the cork board and have had it several years. 

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